Posted labor migrants in EU - the lives of other migrants

Erka Caro, University of Groningen
Nathan Lille, University of Groningen
Lisa Berntsen, University of Groningen
Ines Wagner, University of Groningen

Since the accession of most Eastern European countries to the EU, Europe has been undergoing a new wave of labour migration. Much of this migration is occurring in the form of “posted work”, i.e. when workers are sent by employers to work abroad. This results in temporary communities of workers living and working at and around large construction sites in Western Europe. In this paper we investigate ways in which posted migration triggers the formation of new forms of social identity, networks and livelihoods. We postulate that the particular organizational and regulatory forms used in this form of migration result in migratory experiences which is in some ways different from other, more traditional, forms of migration. Using an ethnographic approach, we examine the working lives and experiences of posted migrants in the EU, highlighting their experiences of their work place and housing sites. As with more traditional migration place making, identity formation, differences among nationalities and importance of social networks in coping with the new environment, play a role in the building up social spaces and identities. However, we also find that these posted migrants tend to be more isolated than other kinds of migrants. They live in isolated spaces creating in-between identities. This is in part a function of their motivations, which are purely economic relate to maintaining a standard of living rather than integrating into the host society. However, the social spaces of the host-site where migrants work have a logic of their own, with hierarchies and inequalities developing between firms and nationalities. Migrants perceive these as unjust, reinforcing the social networks and isolation based on nationalities. Combined, these factors ensure that posted migrants, although increasingly prominent, are a different and unexplored migrant community which needs to be studied and understood in the new EU labor market framework.

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Presented in Poster Session 1